The Texas Association of Museums 2018 Annual Meeting was hosted in Houston from April 18th
. As a graduate student who has a career goal to work in museums, this is my first time attending a local professional conference in this field. Compared to most of the academic symposiums that we are familiar with, this conference looks more like an Expo. Most of the participants are working professionals; a lot of local businesses, NGOs, and governmental agencies set up booths at the venue to introduce their projects and services; and many conference sessions are oriented toward work-place management and professional development.
Through my participation in this event, I realize that there are many benefits for graduate student to get involved in a professional conference. First of all, students can get an insiders’ view of what it looks like to work in a particular professional field. Many professional conference will host student-professional dialogue or early-career professional panels to help the student participants to learn the professional working environment, and how to prepare for a successful career. This is the case here at the Texas Association of Museums conference. We as students get valuable advice from freshly graduated, early-career peers.
The second important thing is that professional conference gives us a not-so-awkward opportunity to network with big names in our field, or employees at leading companies/institutions. It is always good to communicate face-to-face, and participating in a conference allows us to interact with multiple people at the same time. Being a student means that we can always claim that “we are here to learn”, so don’t be shy or afraid to approach those professionals whom you always want to talk to!
The third thing about this particular conference I really like is that students are offered an opportunity to do a resume workshop with the professionals. We make appointment with the Texas Association of Museums members and meet with them at the venue to go over the content and format of our resume. This allows us to get more field specific feedback, compared to those more general ones we get from our school’s career center.
One last thing is about the site-seeing events hosted alongside many professional conferences. I would recommend taking part in the side events as many as you can, because they give you a more professional perspective of the sites, for which you might have visited before but didn’t have the chance to follow an in-depth tour. For example, this conference offers guided walking tour of downtown Houston, hosted by Architecture Center Houston, and Tour of Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
I presented my research poster at the Student Poster Session during the conference. I talked to museum employees, service providers, faculty members in museum studies and related fields, and I also met a lot of Aggies from different walks of life. At the end I was happy to learn that my poster presentation won an award for that session. Again, my experience at the Texas Association of Museums 2018 Annual Meeting has been great. I highly recommend our fellow graduate students to attend local professional organizations’ events and conferences. You never know who you will meet there and what kind of valuable information you will walk away with!
Mingqian Liu | Architecture
Mingqian Liu is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Architecture